All drugs are potentially dangerous and all must be stored in a specially designed, secure area or space on a building in order to avoid contamination or deterioration, disfiguration of labels, maintain integrity of packaging and so guarantee quality and potency of drugs during shelf life, to prevent or reduce pilferage, theft or losses and also prevent infestation of pests and venom. Drugs must be stored in locked cupboards reserved specifically for such medicines.
Ward sisters are legally authorized to possess controlled drugs for use on their wards, hence the drug is left in their custody and keys to the drug cupboard must be held by a staff nurse or nurse in charge.
Also on the wards and departments, the responsibility for the safe keeping of medicines rest with the nurse with continuing responsibility. There should be made available separate lockable ward storage equipment, these include; controlled drug cabinet, internal medicines cupboard ,external medicines cupboard, refrigerator for medicines, freezers for medicines, medicine trolleys and they should be lockable and immobilized when not in use.
Patients must own medicine lockers at their bedsides if possible. Drug cupboards to be used for internal and external medicines must comply with current standards thus, cupboards for diagnostic reagents including urine testing. There must also be an area for intravenous fluids and sterile topical preparations such as ointments, lotions and disinfectants. More importantly there should be an area for flammable fluids and gases.
Storage conditions are important for most drugs and it’s the pharmacist’s responsibility to ensure that the label on the container bears adequate instructions such as “store in a refrigerator” etc. This is because drugs which need cool or cold storage begin to deteriorate if left at room temperature, hence, some medications are stored in the refrigerator. The minimum and maximum must checked regularly this is because there could be instances where the refrigerator fails to maintain cold conditions.
In addition to the above, medicines intended for patient to take home on discharge will be combinations of the patients own medicines and those which were obtained directly from the pharmacy on the authorization of a doctor. These shall be securely locked in patients own medicine locker in a way which allows them to readily be identified and separated from ward stock. Reference; Ben Greenstein –Trounces clinical pharmacology for nurses; seventh edition(pg. 33).